Liberians Mourn ‘Esteemed Patriot’

President Sirleaf pays tribute to the late Sheikh Kafumba Konneh1.jpg

Liberians were shocked late Monday evening by the news of the death of the renowned Liberian Muslim cleric, Shiekh Kafumba Famod Konneh. People from all walks of life in the country are mourning Shiekh Konneh’s passing with expressions of condolences to his family, the Muslim community and the Liberian state.
Many referred to Shiekh Konneh in their tributes as a pacifier and unifier and a man who worked tirelessly to ensure that Liberians practiced tolerance of all religious beliefs in the building of a unified nation.
The tributes and condolences reached a crescendo on Tuesday when Liberians led by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf turned out in their thousands to pay their last respects to a man many consider as a fallen hero and patriot.
At the Antoinette Tubman Stadium in Monrovia where the funeral rites took place were many high ranking officials of the three branches of the Liberian government including Senate Pro-Tempore, Armah Zulu Jallah, Speaker Alex Tyler, representatives of Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, Associate Justices Philip Z. Banks and Kabinah Ja’neh.
The late Muslim cleric was described as someone who consistently advocated for peace, justice and tranquility for all Liberians. He was a founding member of the Inter-Religious Committee of Liberia, a group comprising of religious leaders that began the advocacy for peace among the warring factions during the early years of the Liberian civil war.
He was not just an Islamic preacher but a politician, scholar, lawyer and a judge, the President recalled in her eulogy.
He worked and maintained good relations with Liberian Christian leaders and he travelled on many occasions around the country and out of Liberia advocating for peace and justice for Liberians, speaker upon speaker acknowledged.
Government officials lamented that Liberia has indeed lost a great mind and a humble personality.
A Giant Tree Has Fallen
President Sirleaf, in a sad mood, compared Sheikh Konneh’s death to the falling of a giant tree in the forest. “When a giant tree falls in a forest, it impacts other trees far and near,” she noted indicating further the country’s shock at the news of the demise of the Sheikh whom she described as “a great statesman of valor unpretending.”
President Sirleaf said the late Islamic Prelate was a distinguished Liberian who will be remembered as a messenger of peace and inter-religious tolerance.
“He was a prominent voice and face of Islam in the last three decades in Liberia, commencing with his role as Secretary General of the Muslim Union of Nimba County – to Secretary General to Chairman of the National Muslim Council of Liberia,” she said.
Prior to the assassination of President Tolbert, Sheikh Kafumba Konneh was Commissioner of Ganta City and served as Justice of the Peace in Sanniquellie, Nimba County. His role as an activist started when he disagreed with and pledged his support for the late Dr. Edward Kesselly the founder of the current ruling Unity Party, President Sirleaf said. It was Sheikh Konneh that mobilized Nimba in support of Dr. Kesselly in the 1985 elections, she added.
“Today he is no more but he will fondly be remembered for his outspokenness, fearlessness and courage. When conflict raged, he stood as an outstanding proponent in the search for lasting peace for our country,” President Sirleaf noted.
Madam Sirleaf conveyed condolences from Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, who is away on official duties attending an African Union Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.
“We mourn this great loss to our country as we strive to consolidate the peace and stimulate the trappings of national healing and reconciliation. To the bereaved family, we say take heart,” said the President.
In his tribute, the Chairman of the Governance Commission, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, said that the Liberian state and people owed an enormous debt of gratitude to Sheikh Kafumba Konneh for ensuring that the 14 year civil conflict did not degenerate into a religious war.
He said this could be attributed to Sheikh Konneh’s negotiation, during the height of the nation’s crisis that helped to bring about peace and the maintenance of peace in the country.
Dr. Sawyer, who worked closely with the fallen statesman when he was president of the Interim Government of National Unity, (IGNU), described him as the boldest champion for religious tolerance and urged younger religious leaders to emulate his good example.
According to Dr. Sawyer, the late Cleric explored the intersections of religion, culture, science and politics to embed tolerance, promote scientific knowledge and build a peaceful society.
He noted: “Sheikh Konneh dedicated himself to the struggle to end marginalization, ensure that we respect each other and use our diversity as building blocks for a better society and not as stumbling blocks to progress or walls to separate us from each other.”
Many Liberians referred to him as a symbol of religious unity and Dr. Sawyer hoped young Liberian Muslims would follow his good example.
Sheikh Konneh was born on February 4, 1944 in Saclepea, Nimba County, to Muslim parents. He dedicated his life to public service and religious tolerance and coexistence, for which he was loved and widely admired and respected.
He was a self-educated public servant who started his professional career in 1972, according to the official Gazette published by the Government of Liberia.
He relocated to Monrovia in 1981 and became a member of the Muslim Congress of Liberia and eventually served as its secretary general and later ascended to the post of chairman of the National Muslim Council of Liberia, the position he held until his demise.
Sheikh Konneh is indisputably the most renowned and beloved Islamic cleric the nation has seen. He is held in high esteem by both members of his religion, Christians and Traditionalists as a result of his campaign for tolerance.


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